PublishedMonday, November 22nd 2021
The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
In ecommerce, one metric stands out above all others. The conversion rate of your online store describes the percentage of visitors who take a desired action on your store. This means the higher the conversion rate, the more effectively your online store is performing.
It stands to reason that improving your conversion rate is an important (and ongoing) concern for all ecommerce merchants. By continuously optimizing various elements of your online store - particularly design and development – you can continue to improve upon the efficiency, and by extension, the profitability of your store.
Regardless of the amount of traffic your store is experiencing, by taking steps to actively improve your conversion rate, you’ll be certain that you’ve done all that you can to ensure those who visit your website become paying customers.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization is the process of improving multiple aspects of your ecommerce store to maximize the chances of a successful action being made based on the behavior of your online visitors. This could be customers signing up for your newsletter, clicking on a CTA, or making a purchase.
By making continuous and incremental improvements, conversion rate optimization helps to ensure that all reasonable measures have been taken to enhance the chances of a successful action – and tangible improvement can be measured and worked upon.
What are the main benefits of a higher conversion rate?
- More sales being made for the same amount of visitors
- More cost-effective acquisition – traffic turns into paying customers
- Deeper knowledge of your audience as you learn what appeals to them
- More effective leverage of your existing traffic
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the key areas in which ecommerce stores can look to make informed, tactical improvements, to optimize their conversion rate and enjoy these benefits.
You can make all of the cosmetic or experiential changes you wish, but unless the technical underpinnings of your online store are fully optimized for conversion, you’ll never achieve maximum results.
The way that your site handles visitors has an influence over how likely they are to convert. As ecommerce becomes increasingly familiar to a wider audience, expectations for a site’s performance grow. A store that feels unintuitive, slow, or delivers a poor mobile experience simply won’t be tolerated by the majority of modern shoppers.
Speed is everything. We shop online for convenience, and any factor that impedes a smooth progression to purchase is bothersome. As a result, a page that fails to load rapidly feels incredibly off-putting and can quickly lead them to shop elsewhere.
Therefore it's not surprising that a page’s loading time directly affects bounce rate. As soon as the page load time exceeds 3 seconds bounce rate will increase, reaching up to a staggering 38% by the time the 5 second mark is passed. As a result, slow pages have a huge impact on conversion rate.
The first five seconds of page load time have been found to be the most important. Tolerance is low for a sluggish site in these early, impression-forming moments. Portent found that 0-4 seconds was best in terms of load time for conversion rate. Within the first five seconds of a page loading, for each additional second of load time, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42%.
Site speed also factors in terms of your search engine rankings. A slow site leads to a poor ranking, which will result in lesser traffic being sent to your online store organically. This means the less visitors you receive will lead to a decrease in conversion rate.
Here are 10 actions you can take to help boost speed, and by extension, your conversion rate.
- Check the speed of your hosting
- Optimize your product images
- Compress, wherever possible
- Optimize server response times
- Monitor the impact of plug-ins
- Enable browser caching
- Consider using Content Distribution/Delivery Networks
- Load files asynchronously
- Make use of Accelerated Mobile Pages and Progressive Web Apps
You need to have a good understanding of how fast your site currently is in order to be able to track improvements. Analyze any URL by entering it into the text bar at Google PageSpeed Insights. The report generated by will include a section titled “opportunities.” This will state a number of practical suggestions that you could implement to shave a little time off your page load. Each suggestion expands to include instructions for implementations.
Navigation & Search
Once a visitor has found their way onto your ecommerce site, it’s important to ensure that the path to conversion is clearly signposted. If they’re serious about making a purchase, then effective product discovery is absolutely essential.
This means that your store needs to be easy to navigate, with a well-ordered and intuitive page structure. By making use of product categories and collections you can construct a sitemap that enables easy navigation and exploration, with logical progression through the user journey.
When we talk about navigation and search in the context of ecommerce, we’re really referring to product discovery – the act whereby a visitor successfully locates an item that fits their requirements. It's no great leap to see how improvements made to this aspect of your store can have an impact on conversion rate. If your navigation menus are too complex or confusing, sales will suffer. After all, consumers can’t buy what they can’t find.
Similarly, onsite product search should be an area of investment. Visitors interacting with this element of your store’s functionality are displaying a very high purchase motivation – they are quite literally telling you what they’d like to buy. In fact, conversion rates through site search can be up to 50% higher than average.
What can be done to improve your navigation and search capacities? Here are a few actions you can take to rapidly increase your site’s performance, and as a result, conversion rate.
- Carefully consider the hierarchy of your sub categories
- Make “top level” navigation a link - don’t rely on hover-based navigation
- Don’t get experimental - follow tried and tested conventions
- Incentivize search with a prominently positioned search bar
- Pre fill search bar with trending search suggestions
- Consider including non-product based content in search results i.e. buying guides
While mobile sources now account for the majority of ecommerce traffic, conversion rate on these devices still lags behind that of desktop. According to research performed by Monetate, mobile traffic converts at less than half the rate of that on desktop – just 2.25% compared to 4.81% for desktop.
There are several reasons why this lower conversion rate emerges for mobile, some of which are arguably out of your control as an online merchant (for example, mobile shoppers tend to be more easily distracted, casually browsing “on the go.”)
All the more reason then to ensure you do everything you can to improve the outcomes of your mobile traffic, by taking steps to ensure that this large and potentially profitable segment of your overall visitors are getting the best experience on a smaller screen.
Here are some suggestions for improvements that can help your conversion rate for your mobile audience.
- Clear signposting: make buy buttons obvious, prominent and large enough to easily click.
- Enable better product discovery: consider adding other recommendations within product pages, make exploration of your wider catalog easy and intuitive.
- Keep things visually appealing: clear product photography is essential, and the touchscreen nature of mobile devices presents an opportunity to add a degree of manipulation i.e. 360 degree views or VR capacity.
- Play on impulsiveness: Mobile shoppers tend to browse in a more casual, less intentional manner - turn this to your advantage by including trigger strategies that focus on scarcity and urgency. Timers or “last few remaining” messaging can work wonders.
Finally, there is a variety of advanced technology that can help you hone your conversion rate optimization. Growing your tech stack in this manner can be a very wise investment.
The Shopify App Store is a fantastic resource for seeking third party applications that can optimize and accelerate the converting power of your store.
And don’t forget, your store’s performance has a big impact on conversion rates. To ensure you’re delivering an optimal shopping experience with sub-second page loads, you might want to consider switching to a headless commerce structure. By decoupling your front and backend, and keeping everything synced via a headless commerce’s API, you can achieve lightning-fast page loads, whilst still integrating a wide range of the best third-party applications.
As speed is key to conversion rates, you might also like to explore the optimization services provided by Yottaa. Their accelerations platform helps get your third-party apps running in a more efficient way, and they also provide great guidance regarding the variable performance impact that different apps might have on your store’s speed.
Just as important as your store’s performance and structure is it’s messaging. If you’re not telling the right story, to the right people, your sales will always struggle to meet their fullest potential.
Content means more than words (although these are still critically important!) You also need to be paying careful attention to the images, product information and calls to action across your store. By keeping your messaging clear and your tone of voice consistent, you can drive targeted actions and build trust in your offering.
From product descriptions through to clear calls to action, customers are looking for dependable signposts, and reassurance that they’re in the right place, taking the right steps.
While we typically consider copy in the context of SEO (search engine optimization), you should also be taking care to consider its potential impact for CRO (conversion rate optimization). While the first strategy caters to site crawling robots, the second focuses entirely on the human element of your site’s success – appealing to visitors and encouraging them to make a purchase.
Here are some key points to consider when writing ecommerce store copy:
- Remember that you’re writing with a purpose: convince your reader of the value of your product or service.
- Always keep “the next step” in mind: what action should your copy be encouraging your customer to take as they move down the purchasing funnel?
- Clarity is key: people want information and they want it quickly. Keep things clear and concise.
- Remember your page structure: keep headers punchy, sub headers contextual and calls to action specific and motivating.
Product imagery plays such an important role when it comes to conversion rate optimization in ecommerce. This goes beyond simply providing a clear, high quality image. It’s about painting the fullest picture of the items you sell, convincing the consumer beyond all doubt that they’re the perfect fit for their own circumstances.
Additional effort in this area has data-proven benefits. Providing additional views and formats of interactive images can have a huge impact on people’s decision to make a purchase. Online merchants can do more than simply displaying images from a different vantage point, for example, a side view. DueMaternity.com boosted their conversion rate by 27% thanks to 360° rotating images.
Here are a few ways in which online merchants can have a tangible impact on their CRO, through image optimization.
- Provide context: lifestyle photography provides additional inspiration and helps people visualize the product within their own lives.
- Add product images to site search overlays: give your most highly motivated shoppers an instant view of what’s on offer before they’ve even landed on a category or product page. Up to a 100% lift in conversion rate has been achieved by this alone.
- Feature human faces in your imagery: this has been shown to boost conversion (in this particular example measured by click through and not purchase) by an impressive 95%.
Product detail pages
If your visitors have made it all the way to a product detail page, roll out the red carpet. They’re showing a strong interest and displaying high motivation to buy. Don’t fall at the final fence of the conversion process with product detail pages that let you down.
Give your customers what they want: rich, contextual detail. They’re looking for clear product information (such as dimensions, materials, pricing and sizing) but beyond this, they’re looking for reassurance that they’re making the right purchasing decision.
Using a grid or matrix to provide clear product information can give an instant overview of some of the basics. Leveraging well-written, keyword dense product descriptions can help drive the right kind of traffic your way in the first instance, indirectly boosting the chances of conversion.
Reviews are also an excellent way to ensure you’re providing answers to many of the questions that your visitors may have around factors such as product quality, functionality and durability. Coming from existing customers, this kind of detail carries a strong degree of trust and credibility. In fact, shoppers who interact with reviews versus those who don’t convert 4x more.
Once you’ve successfully driven well-qualified traffic to your website, it’s time to show your visitors a good time.
By providing a polished user experience, seamlessly enabling product discovery, checkout and post-purchase care, you’ll boost conversion rates and ensure that customers return to experience the same great treatment in the future, further improving the metric.
When shopping, your customers want an experience that is relevant to them, their needs and interests. This is where product recommendations come into play. Not only are you delivering a more accurate shopping experience, you’re also increasing the likelihood of an item making its way all the way through check out.
By leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), you can apply deep data-driven insight into the products most likely to catch the eye of your shoppers on a personal level. This in turn gives you a fantastic opportunity to automate the cross-selling process.
Research has shown that store visitors who engaged with a recommended product had a 70% higher conversion rate during the same shopping session. Return sessions also improved as a result of the initial product recommendation, jumping by 55%. So it would appear that the strategy can have a lasting influence on conversion rates.
Social proof, in the form of user generated content (such as images, reviews, videos) or case studies, testimonials and trust icons, has a very powerful persuasive effect on potential customers.
The benefits of social proof on conversion rate lie in reassurance. The psychological impact of seeing the evidence that others have gone before you with regard to making a purchase helps to build confidence in your visitors, and remove any of the doubts that they may have with regard to the completion of their purchase.
For the best results, make the information provided as relatable as possible to your audience - help them to self-identify with the intelligence that they’re being provided with.
This might look like carefully selecting testimonials from customers who perfectly match your target audience. It could also take the form of more detailed reviews, which factor in customer attributes, in addition to information about the products themselves. For example, asking your reviewer to include details of their own body type and height can help a reader contextualize their review in relation to their own physique - leading to more confidence in selecting the right sized item of clothing, and a higher chance of conversion.
Choosing payment options that are appealing and relevant to your customers can improve your conversion rate as much as 30%. The list of payment methods on offer to online merchants is vast (and always expanding) Which of the following represent the most appealing fit for your audience?
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
- Prepaid cards
- Bank transfers
- E-wallets / digital wallets
- Mobile wallets
- Installment payment solutions
By putting a little consideration into the options that you offer for payment, you could be opening up your product range to a much wider range of customers.
You’ll also want to consider the impact your choice of payment method has on your check out process. 21% of shoppers abandon their carts because the checkout process is too complicated; chip away at this statistic by offering a solution that’s fast, safe and intuitive, over desktop and mobile devices.
While this might seem to bear more relevance to the post-purchase journey of a customer, great customer service can absolutely have a positive impact on your conversion rate. Not only does improved loyalty of returning customers help you raise this metric, a reputation for excellent customer service will also help to get sales across the line in its own right, as shoppers feel a greater sense of trust and familiarity – even if they haven’t shopped with you before.
Assuming you have a great approach to your customer service, it’s a good idea to try to keep exchanges public and visible. This shows real life examples of the care you take to visitors who may be looking for exactly this kind of evidence. It’s one of the reasons why replying to reviews (both positive and negative) in a timely and appropriate manner can be so beneficial to brands.
In order to increase your conversion rate, you need to know what’s working. A/B testing is a great opportunity to track and analyze the optimizations you’re putting into place. It allows you to present half of your website’s users with an alternate version of a webpage or onsite element to test the effectiveness of a particular variable.
On-page Elements You Can A/B Test
Some elements that ecommerce stores often experiment with changes to include:
Images: Including video clips and leading variant product photography. You could also test user-generated customer images here!
Social proof: Reviews, star ratings, and testimonials can all be used in various combinations and locations.
Calls to action: Everything from the shape, color and location of your buttons to the copy that you use to encourage people to perform the required task.
Content: Words are powerful, don’t underestimate your messaging when it comes to boosting conversion through copy. Experiment with different phrasing to see what gets the best results.
Navigation structure: What works better for your users? Something streamlined and very minimal, or a structure that gives more context and options?
How to Get Started With A/B Testing
To get started, you need to first identify the problems you’re looking to solve. During your investigation, consider a broad spectrum of factors that may impact conversions:
- What’s driving people to your website most effectively?
- What’s getting in the way of conversion, or causing customers to bounce?
- What’s working in terms of pushing successful conversions through the funnel?
After you’ve explored the areas which might currently be harming your conversion rate, you can start to refine, experiment and finetune, using A/B testing to ascertain which tactics are having the best outcomes.
Follow this simple flow to ensure you’re getting the best results from the process.
Step One – Do Your Research
Study your own internal data as well as your competition to get a few ideas about how you could do things differently. You can apply a quantitative and qualitative approach by using CRO tools. Here are a couple of recommendations to explore if you’re looking to better know your customers, and better serve them by understanding their motivations and pain points.
Step Two – Define the Test
Get clarity on exactly what you’re testing. For example “Shoppers aren’t converting because they’re not convinced that our leather shoes will be comfortable”. By including reviews that show positive scores for the attributes of “comfort” and “fit” on product pages, conversion could be improved.
Step Three – Set the Variable
Remember, in order to give you accurate results, you’re only changing one element at a time, so you can get a true measure of its impact.
Step Four – Set Parameters
Determine the length of time and volume of visitors needed for a reliable test. You’ll need a representative sample size.
Step Five – Get Testing!
There are lots of third-party apps that can help you keep track of how your optimization efforts are performing.
Once you know which strategies are working most effectively, you can replicate and build on your successes across your whole store.
Boost Your Conversion Rate With Okendo
As we’ve seen, multiple elements of your ecommerce store impact your conversion rate, and there are many steps that you can take to refine and optimize the performance of each of these factors.
Okendo partners with a range of expert agency partners that are highly skilled and hand-selected for their ability to produce fantastic results for your ecommerce stores, getting multiple tech tools working hard and in harmony for you, boosting sales and growing your business.